Restarting governments in the cloud

Growth in the availability of cloud technologies, adoption of mobile computing devices and IT consumerisation means that governments need to rethink their strategies regarding e-services. In the article, we take a look at how cloud technology and a fresh approach can help in creating modern public services.

Cloud services reduce spending, give entrepreneurs wider options for export and up-to-date solutions for citizens. Estonia is steering the EU cloud computing agenda and things are looking good in the country itself as well.

Estonia has been using a secure data exchange layer in e-services which called the X-Road for over a decade. The X-Road solution supports decentralised development. There are two major benefits for using a decentralized approach in e-services – it provides higher security due to the lower attack value of each database and allows for each organization using the system to customize their own solutions to their need. Margus Püüa, director of the Department of State Information Systems at Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communication in Estonia says the country plans to use the same approach when transitioning to cloud solutions.

„We see several benefits in the adoption of cloud technologies. They provide more flexibility in data volume management, they are easier to implement and also recyclable – meaning they can be used by more than one organization or government. The combination of cloud solutions combined with modern lightweight applications is taking over the traditional client-server system logic behind e-services. In the development of X-Road, we take into account the possibilities of the cloud,” says Margus Püüa.

Building e-services as cloud solutions means growth in export capabilities for the IT companies developing the solutions. Andrei Korobeinik, IT entrepreneur and Member of the Estonian Parliament explains: “The development of a system for 1 million, 100 million or 1 billion users is not that different. But when governments buy e-services as products then it is like chasing rabbits – the private sector is much faster in innovating and waste of resources on updating systems is huge. The private sector excels in export and buying services instead of ownership means the government is supporting business activities as well.”

However, building “one size fits all” solutions do not come without its challenges. Most public organisations are used to having their very detailed and tailored e-services solutions created specifically for them. Cloud solutions are different and there needs to me a change of mindset when public organisations want to take advantage of their benefits.

Margus Püüa gives an example: “When building a healthcare solution, you can take into account very specific needs of one specific hospital and its doctors. However, those needs might not be the same in another hospital and the service might be unusable there. Building a solution with less specifics allows for more people to use it.”

An example of this new mindset can be seen in the Estonian e-Kool service. The virtual class journal solution is developed by a private company and bought as a service by educational institutions. There are several other examples with export capabilities as well, such as mobile mapping software of Nutiteq, planning solutions of Positium or the 3D wayfinder by 3D Technologies R&D. Due to private ownership there is no need for the state to spend resources in trying to export or develop the solution.

Innovation in the public sector usually takes more time than in private organisations. With the emergence of buying IT solutions as a service, these obstacles can be removed. In the long run, moving the government into the cloud will provide reductions in spending, increase export capabilities for local IT companies and what’s most important – enable governments to provide citizens with e-services which are always up to date.

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This article was first published by e-estonia.com and was written for e-Estonia newsletter “The digital society”.

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About the author: e-Estonia

e-Estonia is a dedicated website about Estonia's digital society.